Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll. Korea.

The 41st San Francisco International Film Festival

10 p.m.: Little Miracles
(Argentina, 1997)
"I don't have a philosophy, I have feelings," says an elderly man in the whimsical Little Miracles. He could well be speaking for the Argentinian director, Eliseo Subiela (Man Facing Southeast, Wake Up Love), who would be a poet if he weren't a filmmaker. His Little Miracles is like a sketchbook with eloquent captions. Rosalia, a young grocery clerk, dreams of being rescued from her desolate life by a fairy godmother. When one doesn't arrive, she grows her own set of wings. The husband destiny is grooming for her, an astronomer, divides his time between searching for signs of intelligent life in the universe and using surveillance equipment to spy on her at a bus stop. Though Subiela reaches for something transcendent here, he achieves the merely quirky. Still, it is difficult to resist his appeal to our essential humanity. (Sura Wood)

10:30 p.m.: I Went Down
(Ireland, 1997)
A gritty comedy from director Paddy Breathnach about the misadventures of a luckless and unwilling small-time gangster.

7 p.m.: (Castro): He Ran All the Way (U.S.A., 1951)
"The Unvanquished" honoree John Berry's political noir starring John Garfield and Shelley Winters. See accompanying story, "John Berry: Romantic Rebel."

9:30 p.m. (Castro): Jeanne and the Perfect Guy (France, 1998)
While the western enjoyed a brief resurgence in the '90s, another classic genre -- the musical -- was nowhere to be seen. It remained for the fearless French to resuscitate this hoary form, and the results suggest that some dogs are better left lying. Fans of fluff like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg may appreciate this story of a sexy young Parisienne who abandons her sexually profligate life to settle down with "the perfect guy" -- who happens to be dying of AIDS. Others will find the level of smarm suffocating, as every plot twist occasions a self-conscious musical outbreak, with the characters tunelessly expressing every little thought in their heads in song. Directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau attempt to inject a political consciousness into a form that by nature resists it, but they're sentimentalists at heart, corralling every cliche about lost love and mortality in sight. The sex scenes are surprisingly upfront, but with a fatal maudlin edge; all that's missing is a deathbed blow job. (Gary Morris)

7 p.m.: (PFA): Ossos (Portugal/France/Denmark, 1997)
Life in a Lisbon slum, from director Pedro Costa.

9:30 p.m.: (PFA): Following & short (England, 1998)
A weedy nonentity (Jeremy Theobald, a Richard E. Grant-type) with a habit of trailing strangers gets more than he bargained for in this 70-minute hand-held noir by British filmmaker Christopher Nolan. A clever film with lots of twists and a real sting in its tail; but in the end it leaves you suspecting, as most others built around a continual string of revelations do, that there could easily have been another surprise ... and then another ... and then another. Plays with Michael Almereyda's 23-minute The Rocking Horse Winner, which applies his favored home-video format to the D.H. Lawrence novella -- appropriately, in this case. (Gregg Rickman)

Saturday April 25

Noon: Bird People of China
(Japan, 1998)
Even the Japanese are milking the current Celtic music craze now. Bird People of China traffics in the sure-fire wistfulness the sound of a penny whistle can bring to any movie scene in this charming but overly obvious culture clash comedy/drama, something like a combination of Apocalypse Now and Local Hero. A naive Japanese salaryman and a grumpy gangster go "up the river" into the remote, unspoiled Yun Nan province of China, an unspeakably spectacular location in danger of being destroyed by, well, us. But if the filmmakers are so worried about the spoiling of this Shangri-La, then why did they drag a whole film crew up there and make a virtual travelogue about it? (Tod Booth)

1 p.m.: Ticket (South Korea, 1986)
Kurosawa Award-winner Im Kwon-Taek's "social protest" film about prostitution. See accompanying story, "Im Kwon-Taek: Drawing Down the Moon."

1:30 p.m.: Eisenstein: The
Master's House
(Russia/Germany, 1998)

This whimsical documentary goes far in humanizing a key figure in film history more revered than known. Directors Marianna Kirejewa and Alexander Iskin artfully limn the contours of Eisenstein's life -- from a privileged Russian childhood through his associations with many of the artists of the day (including Chaplin) to his always uneasy relationship with Stalin and his groundbreaking use of montage techniques, an enormous impact on cinema then and now. The filmmakers look at their subject through a comically cracked lens: In a typical sequence, Eisenstein's parents' marital problems are illustrated by a bizarre clip from a silent movie showing two animated cockroaches duking it out in a miniature house. (Gary Morris)

3 p.m.: Buud Yam (France, 1997)
See Friday 4 p.m. for commentary.

4 p.m.: Edge City & short (U.S.A., 1998)
See Friday 7:15 p.m. for commentary.

4:30 p.m.: Queens for a Day (France/Switzerland, Various)
A program of dance-themed shorts from France and Switzerland.

6:45 p.m.: The Acrobats
(Italy, 1997)
See Friday 4:30 p.m. for commentary.

7 p.m.: Cure (Japan, 1997)
A little bit of Seven, a bit more of The X-Files, and a lot of Angel Dust, Cure, from Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is too derivative and plodding to achieve fully compelling creepiness. It wants to be slithery and insidious, to get under your skin and make you question your own reality, which it does every once in a while, especially in some of the scenes of the killer running his mind-fuck on his victims. It's too slow, though -- I couldn't help thinking that Mulder and Scully could have solved these mysterious serial murders in about half the time. (Tod Booth)

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